There’s a word my family often uses – manusha dwesha. It pretty much translates to People-hater! Though I like the ring of it, I’ve always felt it’s too strong a word to be used. Well, just because you avoid people doesn’t mean you hate them. Probably it could just be that it takes a bit of energy to be polite and nice especially to people you barely know, and maybe you don’t have that kind of energy just then. This happens when you are a socially awkward, semi-introverted over-thinker. When I step into a room, I want to shove myself into a corner and just be; faking a smile to avoid conversations, dreading small talk, being invisible. Naturally making friends is not a forte.
I believe that friendships aren’t forced, and they just happen. But when the self-conscious, social awkwardness seeps in, friendships sure don’t just happen. When people tell me, “go out, make friends”, I am caught wondering if it has worked for them, where do they go? what do they do? and how do they make friends? To be very honest, the ones I consider friends for life today are the ones I never imagined getting along with when I first met them. Looking back I can say that all my friendships have followed a pattern.
Stage 1: I don’t think you are my type.
Where do most of us end up making friends? School, college, work and pretty much anywhere else we are bound to spend uncomfortable amounts of time with a bunch of people we barely know. So did I. I had newly joined a workplace, and was as lost as a chicken crossing the road. Weeks passed yet that gnawing feeling to finish work and disappear remained. And then kaboom, I heard a voice, “So you actually don’t talk is it?” Uh oh! Searching frantically for a clearing on the floor to stick my head in like an ostrich, I smiled and gave a half-swallowed reply, “Yea, not so much.” I now saw a smiling face that continued talking. My self-defensive mechanism was kicked open and I was looking high and low for reasons to not to like this person – body odour, pretentiousness, 666 on the head – something, anything, just an excuse. I would like to point out that the said person is one of my good friends now!
Stage 2: You might not be my type, but I appreciate your sass.
Having warmed up to the person, I start to notice the little details about the other person – their attitude, the way they speak, the sass, the sarcasm or probably the way they pronounce a particular word wrong. All of this, defines them and makes them whole and real. That’s when the introvert in me reaches out to them. Not in a ‘you are my favourite around here’ kind of a way, but in a ‘polite good morning every morning’ kind of a way.
Stage 3: Can we hate the world together, please?
What typically follows stage 2 is is a second layer of discovery, one of mutual hatred – to a particular kind of food spice, capitalism, or just the soaring summer temperatures. Sometimes all it takes is a simple comment, “I don’t understand women who call other women babes.” When one of my colleagues from another workplace said this to me, it cracked me up. It was my two peas in a pod moment. A sudden discovery of a fellow human being who thinks the way I do. This changes everything. The ostrich would now love to remove its head from the ground and go jaywalking across the grasslands with the friend. Today, the colleague is a friend and one of the most inspiring women I know.
Stage 4: Comfortably awkward, no questions asked.
Jaywalking will soon be followed by me turning comfortably awkward around the new friend. The best part is, the friend sees nothing, says nothing. It makes me wonder if I am awkward at all. I start to think I am actually normal around this person. I could eat a sub sandwich in front of this person and not feel messy and awkward. The deal is sealed. Perhaps I will even share my potato chips crumbles with this person now.
The ones who’ve survived me would know this only too well and here’s a toast to you all. Thank you for putting up with me and you’re welcome for the times I’ve put up with you as well 😉 I’ve loved you all with all of your quirks, even though I don’t say it enough.